Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 13 April 2015

Can military intervention be avoided in South Sudan?


By Luka Biong Deng

It seems the IGAD-led mediation may exhaust its diplomatic endeavour if it fails again to convince the warring parties to sign peace agreement in the next round of peace talks. The leaked documents from IGAD suggest that IGAD plus will be working on a final and binding agreement that is expected to be signed by the warring parties by 18th April. In lieu of such agreement, IGAD and international community may use force to intervene militarily in pursuit of humanitarian goals in South Sudan. Assuming that one of the warring parties, particularly the government, rejects the IGAD proposed peace agreement, will military intervention be justifiable?

Military intervention is the last resort after exhausting other humanitarian interventions such as material assistance (humanitarian assistance) and sanctions (non-military actions). Military intervention is justifiable when the nation-state fails to protect the human life, or it is seen committing gross human rights abuses or unable to avert humanitarian crisis such as famine or maintain law and order. Alex de Waal and Rakiya Omaar in their article titled “Can Military Intervention be a “humanitarian intervention”?” assess the effectiveness of military intervention. They argued that the use of military intervention is fraught with enormous problems, never “clean” or “quick” and to making it effective it should be subjected to rigorous preconditions, which have rarely been met in practice.

Do the current conditions in South Sudan warrant military intervention? Since the eruption of crisis in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 2 million people are internally displaced and about half a million people took refugee in the neigbouring countries; making it the most serious displacement crisis since the 1983-2005 civil war. With generous intervention by international community, particularly USA, an imminent famine was averted but a looming famine persists in 2015.

More than 6 million people are food insecure with tens of thousands of children remaining at risk of malnutrition with rates of acute malnutrition reaching over 30 percent that is more than double the officially recognized emergency levels. It is estimated that thousands of innocent lives were brutally lost. UN Human Rights reports on South Sudan painted gross human rights abuses that may tantamount to crimes against humanity. The expected report of AU Commission of Inquiry for South Sudan may expose more atrocities committed since 15th December 2015. The recently released report titled “South Sudan: The Cost of War” estimates the price of failing to bring about lasting peace in South Sudan could be USD158 billion over the next two decades.

With this account of enormous human suffering, one may easily jump to a conclusion that military intervention will be justifiable. Some elites and intellectuals naively support and call for military intervention as a desirable neo-colonialism to put South Sudan on path of peace and stability. Despite the fact that the deteriorating security, economic and humanitarian situation in South Sudan may pose a real security threat to stability in the region, yet military intervention may not be the best option.

The military strength and national sentiment in South Sudan may need to be carefully assessed before any military intervention. With its history of liberation struggle and coupled with newly acquired military hardware, SPLA may be considered as a formidable force in the region despite its recent disintegration. Given the bad relations that developed between the government and UN, any possible military intervention can easily be used to mobilize citizens against international community as it can easily be equated with Sudan.

In comparison with other crises in the continent such as Libya, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, the crisis in South Sudan may not be different or worse. Also, what lessons can we learn from recent military interventions in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Haiti for the possible use of military force in South Sudan. As rightly argued by de Waal and Omaar that the experience from every case in which military intervention has been tried or contemplated affirms missed opportunities and serious blunders.

Another question is how such military intervention will be organized? Military intervention stands better chance of success if it is accepted by all and preferably under the umbrella of UN. If the warring parties failed to conclude peace agreement by 18th April, IGAD cannot initiate military intervention by itself but through AU Peace and Security Council that will forward such decision to UN Security Council to act on it under Chapter VII. Certainly, some members of IGAD plus such as Sudan, South Africa, Rwanda, Chad, Uganda and probably Algeria may not support such military intervention. It seems IGAD and some members of Troika will be ready to avail the necessary forces and funding of the contemplated military intervention in South Sudan.

Even if IGAD plus agree to use military force in South Sudan, the AU Peace and Security Council may be divided and may reject the option of military intervention. Even if the AU Peace and Security Council agree to use force in South Sudan, it will be difficult for the members of the UN Security Council, particularly China and Russia to endorse such intervention. As the contemplated military intervention may not get blessing from all with exception of some members of IGAD and Troika, such intervention may face enormous challenges to succeed.

Another question is whether IGAD and international community have exhausted other peaceful options? UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to use targeted sanctions to encourage the warring parties to conclude peace agreement. Although these sanctions are not effective in two-third of the time, the enforcement of these sanctions is less harmful than military intervention. Rather than resorting to military intervention, there is one-third chance that the implementation of UN targeted sanctions may be effective in encouraging the targets to expedite the conclusion of peace agreement.

IGAD and international community may need to explore the use of the SPLM Reunification Agreement as the basis for encouraging a homegrown peace resolution in South Sudan. The conclusion of Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement came as a result of grassroots Church-led peace initiative in 1999 that resulted in local peace agreement known as “Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant”. This grassroots peace initiative contributed not only to the unification of the SPLM after its split in 1991 but it strengthened the SPLM to negotiate with the Government of Sudan as one united movement and that resulted in the conclusion of CPA. Also the Greater Pibor Peace Agreement is another successful homegrown solution. Although people may differ about the political implications of this agreement, Pibor area is now experiencing relative peace and the church leaders have again provided another example of a homegrown solution. If church leaders and some prominent chiefs are given opportunity, they will be able to convince the warring parties in the spirit of Arusha Agreement, Wunlit Agreement and Greater Pibor Agreement to resolve the outstanding issues in the peace talks.

Definitely the easiest way to avoid the military intervention is for the warring parties to resolve the outstanding issues or to accept the IGAD’s proposed final and binding peace agreement. One expects IGAD to be mindful of the concerns of the warring parties and the overwhelming demand for peace by the people of South Sudan and to come up with an acceptable proposed peace agreement. If the leaked IGAD’s proposed peace agreement were true, then there would be no chance to be accepted by the warring parties, particularly the government.

One hopes that IGAD will propose an agreement that will be accepted by the warring parties without making it a bad peace to the people of South Sudan. The IGAD’s proposed peace agreement will certainly provide a golden opportunity to avoid military intervention in South Sudan. The option of military intervention in South Sudan must be avoided by all means as it will exacerbate the current crisis and it will cause more human suffering as it may obstruct the much-needed humanitarian assistance and possibly may result in more serious blunders and missed opportunities.

The author is the Director of Centre for Peace and Development Studies at University of Juba. He is also a global fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo and an associate fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He can be reached on luka_kuol@hks.harvard.edu

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  • 14 April 2015 08:01, by Eastern

    South Sudan is at a crossroad because of the monsters in dinka led SPLM party. The country is in for a long haul.At the end of it all, military intervention of sorts will be employed to sort out the mess caused by SPLM. Sudan’s Bashir was right, SPLM leaders cannot govern!

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  • 14 April 2015 08:25, by Mr Point

    Why would any part of the international community spend money and weaken its defences to fight in South Sudan?

    There is no gain for them.

    It is far easier for them to watch the SPLM leadership to reduce South Sudan to another Somalia.

    All South Sudan has in its future is corrupt leadership, tribal war, famine.

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    • 14 April 2015 08:50, by Eastern

      Mr. Point,

      Agreed that South Sudan is headed to the Somlia-like state. The international community should not led another Somalia-like state emerge in the region if the have the means to nub the monster in its bud; it’s less costly than future humantarian intervention which run into billion of taxpayers money in the West.

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  • 14 April 2015 08:57, by Eastern

    There is a lot of negative politics in the corridors of UN by China and Russia, two leading suppliers of ’death machines’ to stupid leaders in the developing counties. Apparently, all humantarian assistance comes fro the West with Russian and Chinese assistance not forthcoming. Who are our true friends? Chinese/Russian or TROIKA. China and Russsia supported NIF government in Sudan during the 22 yr

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  • 14 April 2015 12:22, by Redeemer

    Fool may think that Somalia was made that way by Somalians themselves but it was made so by Western countries, lets not ignore the facts

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    • 14 April 2015 13:55, by Eastern


      Until you come with evidence the claim that the instability in Somalia is the creation of the West, you will remain one of the fools who believe in hearsay. America alone lost billions in USD just to rebuild Somalia. America has spent billions in trying to make South Sudan a viable state. But stupid leaders in have faith in are running the country aground!

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      • 14 April 2015 14:16, by Redeemer

        You seem to be knowing what is going on by mentioning the word ( Rebuild Somalia ) you are my strong witness ever and no more evidence don’t look for what you know

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        • 14 April 2015 14:33, by Redeemer

          Never be deceived that America are using all their $ for development as they say but for destruction as well

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          • 14 April 2015 15:03, by Eastern


            Don’t buy into that fallacy; I trust you are an informed person. Don’t think and belive like a villager straight from cattle camp. Only fools would be led to agree that America or Norway want South Sudan oil. The sooner you move away from that thinking, the better for you.

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  • 14 April 2015 15:09, by Eastern


    Today common folks are grappling with fear of the obvious when Kiir’s actions have started catching up with him. Kiir is shifting his trust from one camp to another but all the same, his camps are not doing well. 1$ trades at 8.5SSP, with salaries fixed in SSP, don’t you see more trouble?

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    • 14 April 2015 15:30, by Redeemer

      Our wishes are not to see people suffering but we need a transformed system and our people having a live above the poverty line, your jubilation over the rising costs in the country is nothing but (Ngundengism)wish fullness

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      • 14 April 2015 15:38, by Eastern

        I am not a Nuer to believe in ngungdeng. What I am saying is the system in Juba needs overhaul and your likeminded think contrary. The suffering of South Sudanese is purely due to leadership failure, you seem not to see this glaring fact. Redeemer, Makuei and Co are fighting the UN and the international community. Who do you want to be your alley? Even Museveni is heavily supported by the West.

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  • 14 April 2015 15:42, by Eastern


    You need real redemption moving forward. Today I have across firsthand a South Sudanese who leaves in the past in your person. If you are the type of redemption South Sudanese must expect then the country is in for a long haul.

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  • 14 April 2015 17:38, by Hardlinner

    Intervention in south sudan. What a joke. If security did value the lives of civilians, why didn’t they do it sudan where 300,000 darfurians were killed by bashir. The problem in south sudan is complex one. There is no way dinkas will allow mass murderer like riek to take over. Only civilians themselves can solve south sudan problem. Those who backed riek are on loosing end.

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    • 14 April 2015 19:17, by Mr Point

      You say that South Sudan would not allow a mass murderer like Riak to hold power.

      Would you hold accountable those responsible for the murder of hundreds of civilians in the streets and police stations of Juba in December 2013?

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    • 14 April 2015 19:52, by Eastern

      I have always told you this: the claim that South Sudanese problem is more complex than any is a pure fallacy. Get a life and face the problems brought upon the country by Dinkocracy. There is an antidote to this mess, just stand aside and watch!

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  • 14 April 2015 20:23, by Eastern

    I would have given Dr. Biong the answer ’no’ , but I felt it necessary that I expound a bit though this seems not to go down well with some dinkocrats!

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    • 15 April 2015 09:12, by Panda Odhie

      Dear Eastern
      through your commence you personally and those who think like your way have problem with Dinka,do you want western to help you clean Dinka out of South Sudan land or what is your point of argument hating mighty Jieng? I do not think your way of putting all problem on Jieng will help solve anything in South Sudan, you are people born with natural hatred I can not say cause by political

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      • 15 April 2015 09:22, by Panda Odhie

        what Jieng have not done to Junubian?, during liberation struggle Jieng was fighting Arab and SS brothers who were against as well as Riek was one of them ,among the people who were contributing to the struggle movement ,Jieng have 90% contribution when other have low percentage, anyway it is only God who knows how good is the Jieng and what achievement did they brought to Junubian.

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        • 15 April 2015 09:28, by Panda Odhie

          please stop your being talking against Jieng from dawn to the sunset, the current problem hated by everybody we need solution which not cause us another problem in future. Alone as Junubian we can get solution because we do listen to our elders regardless of troika,UN Norway or anybody. But if we keep hatred ideology dear brothers we can not achieve anything those Trioka or who ever is intervene.

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          • 15 April 2015 12:40, by Eastern

            Panda Junub,

            Let the jenge people stop the fallacy that because they are the majority, they can Lord it on others. This is 21st century where your population is just but number. If I ask you why do people have problems with the jenges in every continent they go to? Yes continent not country. Answer me!

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            • 15 April 2015 14:32, by Redeemer

              The question you posted is just a wishful kind of thinking. If there is any Dinka involve in any kind of a bad business. It is the facts of life that we are humans. Get into the world news and you will find that crimes are being committed (problems) Thank God not (Ngundeng) if Nuer have no problems

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              • 15 April 2015 15:51, by Eastern

                How does Nuer come into this? I was alluding to the ills bedevilling South Sudan and the entire world thanks to jenge mindset of wanting to Lord it over others. Nuers and their ngundeng can give you the answer to the question you posted. I am Eastern.

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                • 15 April 2015 16:27, by Panda Odhie

                  Dear Eastern
                  Jieng or Jenge no problem anyway not and insult, it was just matter of pronunciation from Jalaba, Only God knows how good are Jieng ,a mere human being like you cannot understood them. I know whereever you go as Junubian you guys talk bullshits about Jang which are now your fathers who free you from Arab,though you deny it 2day God knows how Jieng suf to liberated this country

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                  • 15 April 2015 16:34, by Panda Odhie

                    Jesus was helping people to repentance but they hate him to death, you have right to talk anything in mind against Jang ,but since we have mouth like you ,we still can neutralize all lies against them. please let us think as civilize and educated to eliminated hatred with in us ,but you guys are the worse of all in hatred ,which is born in you. God is great

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                    • 15 April 2015 16:38, by Panda Odhie

                      Dear Eastrn Equatoria or world
                      if I ask you ,which continent?, we are all followers of the media ,I have never get it

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  • 15 April 2015 19:11, by lino


    Dr. Biong is asking whether Military Intervention be avoided and are just chatting around the point???
    How good you are in analyzing issues??/

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    • 16 April 2015 07:36, by Eastern

      The answer to Dr. Biong is simple. With the current steely attitude of the leadership in Juba, military intervention is unavoidable.

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  • 15 April 2015 22:42, by Ambago

    Anybody who reads your comments here will understand that South Sudanese will NEVER achieve Peace on their own. It is true that what united you in the first place was ONLY your common hatred for the Jallaba. That is gone now .

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    • 16 April 2015 07:41, by Eastern


      Blind supporters of Dinkocracy donot take it sitting down that South Sudan is fast running aground thanks to the bad governance of the day. They want to be diversionary by blaming Troika, the West, the UN, etc for their shortcoming, how ludicrous!!

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    • 16 April 2015 07:48, by Panda Odhie

      Dear Lino ,Ambago
      your commence are good but some like Eastern do use to take the words out of their canals, they are planting root of hatred in their hearts ,where whether what, they just finger point to the whole community instead of individual case with him. personally i track my point out of what somebody said. doing that we will never ever achieve anything since we are all tribalist.

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      • 16 April 2015 08:22, by Eastern

        Why do you want to hear good things only when you don’t do the same? Are you one person who doesn’t know that Kiir nowadays confers with the Jieng Council of Elders on issues partaining South Sudan? Come to Juba and you will know I am talking about. I can’t separate the jenges from the current poor governance. Come and see these old men in their trademark black hats and walking sticks.

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